High Streets Minister, Jake Berry MP, today visited Ely High Street.
As part of her campaign to improve the outlook for our high streets, Lucy Frazer MP, invited the Minister to come to Ely. He met with key local figures who are actively engaged in efforts to ensure the future prosperity of the High Street.
At a meeting with the Minister hosted by Lucy, all those present welcomed ‘The Future High Streets Fund’, announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Budget. The Minister was asked for advice on how to ensure a successful bid on behalf of Ely.
Other points of discussion included the Combined Authority funded ‘Market Town Feasibility Study’ and the collaborative effort needed to address the changing nature of the high street affected by a whole host of issues including the online shopping revolution, rents, rates and the impact of charity shop status.
Those in attendance included Councillor Lis Every, Cambridgeshire County Councillor (Ely North), East Cambridgeshire District Council and City of Ely Councillor (Ely East); Charles Roberts, Deputy Mayor of the Combined Authority and Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council; Councillor Anna Bailey, Deputy Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council and the County Councillor for Ely South; Mike Rouse, Mayor and Chair of the City of Ely Council; Richard Hobbs, Chair of the Tourism, Tourist Information Centre, Events and City Centre Committee and Tracey Harding, Manager, Town Centres, Tourism, TIC, Oliver Cromwell House and Events.
A number of High Street business owners were invited to join the latter half of the meeting. They included Andrew Olly manager of City Cycle Centre and a representative of the Trading Association; Annabelle Reddick, owner and co-manager of Burrows Bookshops and Burrows Newsagents; Sarah Simonds, owner of the ladies’ fashion shop, Artichoke and Tracey Reynolds, co-owner of interiors shop, Duck Egg Blue.
Following the meeting, the Minister was taken on a tour of the High Street, beginning at City Cycle Centre and also visiting James Cox, gentlemen’s outfitters, Eel Catchers Daughter, gift shop and Brent Cornwall, butchers.
Lucy spoke about the visit saying, "The future health of our high streets affects us all. Not only are our high streets a vital component of our economy, they are also essential to the fabric of our local community. It is clear that in order to ensure a vibrant future, our high streets need to adapt and the government is committed to helping them make the necessary changes. Thanks to an ongoing review of towns and high streets in our region, currently being undertaken by the Combined Authority in conjunction with the District Councils, a number of proactive practical measures to help our high streets have already been identified. These measures need funding and I am very grateful to the Minister for taking the time to speak with us today and to help us understand how we can best target funding that is being made available for this purpose."
In addition to ‘The Future High Streets Fund’, the government is supporting local businesses with a number of other measures. More than £9 billion of business rate support means that many small businesses now pay no rates. The reduction to the annual rates rises is worth a further £4 billion and there is also a £300 million discretionary relief scheme which local authorities can use to grant relief to businesses. In addition to this, the Government are reviewing the wider taxation of the digital economy and recently established an expert advisory panel, the ’Future High Streets Forum’, which is to support and champion local high streets, share best practice and develop new solutions and responses to the challenges being faced at a local level.
High Streets Minister, Jake Berry, said “It was great to meet local leaders who are really enthusiastic about making sure their high street thrives both now and in the future. Our Future High Streets Fund is open to ambitious ideas and I look forward to receiving Ely’s application.”
Councillor Lis Every who helped to coordinate the visit and who is very engaged in supporting local retailers, said, “We need to work collectively to address the structural shift taking place in the retail environment. Here in Ely, footfall is down despite all we have to offer including free parking, an award winning market, a very attractive riverside, a unique heritage and recently introduced free Wi-Fi! Local independent shops are vital to the future viability of the city centre and are also vital to the social cohesion of the local community. I am really grateful to Lucy for arranging today’s meeting. It was very helpful to be able to talk directly with the Minister.”